What a beautiful start to the World Cup of the beautiful game of Football!
The first day, when the Russians defeated Saudi Arabia by five goals, gave the impression of a high scoring World Cup.
The second day, first two matches ended with 1-0 scoreline, the day of late goals, in all three games.
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The third day, expected and unexpected results were observed, truly it was anybody’s day.
The fourth day clearly belonged to the upsets with the Brazilians sharing a point with the Swiss and Mexicans clinching all three points from the Germans.
Within four days of World Cup football, four of the favourites, namely, Spain, Argentina, Germany and Brazil saw unfavourable results as all of them were denied victorious beginnings with the Germans losing it all the way. Every day we are watching a new side of Football, and two such sides were seen in these two games featuring the two gods of modern-day Football.
Portugal vs Spain
Cristiano Ronaldo is a household name around the world. And he earned every bit of it in his opener game. Against him were his employers, the Spaniards, one of the favourites to win the cup, his teammates and rivals in his club life. The lack of effort from the rest of the Portuguese team probably prevented them from defeating the Spaniards. Spain looked promising in Diego Costa and Nacho but their inability to contain Ronaldo, made them settle for a draw. It was a game when the individual becomes greater than the team.
A penalty in the 4th minute was taken as a gift by Ronaldo. The second goal was hit with such ferocity and that too from the opposite left foot that one of the best Goalkeepers of the World De Gea was deceived by Ronaldo. Cristiano led from the front and gave Portugal the lead twice, only to see Diego Costa equalise both times.
Then in the 58th minute, Nacho came up with an outstanding goal, the best of the match, probably of the World Cup, and as he was responsible for the Ronaldo penalty, Spain’s morale was sky high after this goal as their weakest link became the strongest.
The next 30 minutes Spain dominated the game with their possession tactics, just parking the bus as they say. But then in the 88th minute, Ronaldo saw his window of opportunity, his only chance to stand up and deliver. With that one kick, he demolished the fort of Spain, denying them a victory and a safe position in the group B table.
His GOAT(Greatest Of All Time) celebration was a pun intended towards Messi who was seen in an advertisement with a Goat. He told everybody what this World Cup is going to be about,i.e. the man who delivers on the given day.
But this was only one side of Football when the Individual beats the Team. In the other game between Argentina and Iceland, a completely contradictory reality of football was witnessed, the flipside…
Argentina vs Iceland
Lionel Messi is blessed with a thing that Ronaldo isn’t, an outstanding team with World class players. Even their bench have stars like Paolo Dybala sitting out games. Messi fans are still wondering what happened. Likewise Ronaldo, Messi was also gifted a priceless penalty spot kick, which would have given Argentina a possible victory. An opportunity to go one step ahead of Ronaldo in terms of points earned, because in the end leading your team to victory is always greater scoring a hattrick for a draw. Nobody including Lionel Messi knows what happened, how come an ex-filmmaker from a small ice-covered island country of Iceland guessed it correctly and dived in the right direction, nobody knows.
However, we can’t take anything away from Halldorsson for his brilliant save, in fact, that is what the beauty of the game is. Any individual or any team can stand up and deliver on any given day, no matter who is in the opposition.
In the dying moments of the game, Messi got an opportunity to win it for Argentina with a free kick outside the box. But unlike Ronaldo, he failed to deliver and his frustration was quite evident. Was it the Ronaldo GOAT jibe or the utter pressure of expectations, only Messi knows what troubled him.
It takes individuals like Ronaldo to make a stronger team like Spain to kneel and share and it takes teams like Iceland, a team of misfits (football is the part-time job for the majority of team) to make a God with a team to bow down and admire. Iceland was a find of the Euro 2016 and they are here to prove that it was not a fluke. This was the other side of Football showcased by a team like Iceland, which plays with the spirit of Football.
Its evident in the reply of their coach Heimir Hallgrimsson, when asked about celebrating the draw, the part-time Coach and full-time dentist replied:
“People say we celebrate when we won a point, but wait and see how we celebrate when we’ve won a game.”
As for the Ronaldo vs Messi endless debate, Ronaldo has definitely won the first round, but winning the bout is an entirely different thing. Everyone knows Messi will come back with all guns blazing in his next game and ultimately the player who will lift the trophy will be the one who will become greater than the game, (or the GOAT) like Maradona and Pele. Fans around the world will hope that Jose Mourinho’s prediction of a Portugal-Argentina Final should ultimately settle the GOAT challenge, once and for all.